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Here Comes the Sun: A COVID-19 Art Installation

Tawana Holland remembers sitting with a patient who was dying of COVID-19 in the early days of the global pandemic. The clinical aide was with a trauma nurse, holding the patient’s hands as her breath became increasingly laboured.
Then, all three of them began to softly sing as a radio played in the background.
“Watching her deteriorate from COVID and feeling her suffocating, not being able to breathe, all we could do was hold her hands and let her know she wasn't alone,” Tawana says.
“I'll never forget that – never.”
The pandemic was a time of unimaginable stress and grief for healthcare workers. And we wanted to commemorate the ways staff persevered.
An art installation, which depicts the determination of healthcare workers throughout the pandemic, was unveiled in the hospital’s lobby in July. Local artist Carol Folino used staff stories – including Tawana’s – as inspiration.

Participating in the project was part of Tawana’s healing process.

Photo of Tawana Holland
“I was able to visualize what I went through – to vocalize it, even though no words were spoken,” Tawana says.
“The artist brought to life what we all were thinking.”
The installation is titled “Here Comes the Sun” after the Beatles song of the same name, which rang through St. Mary’s speaker system whenever a COVID-19 patient was discharged. The song became a symbol of hope and happiness around the hospital.
Carol Folino, the artist, painting St. Mary's COVID-19 art installation.
Carol met with participating staff members before painting them into her work, taking photographs of them in their element and getting to know them on a personal level.
She says she was touched by staff members’ “vulnerability and willingness to share” their pandemic stories.
“Their faces and words have left an undeniable mark on my heart,” Carol says.

St. Mary’s saw nearly 3,500 cases of COVID-19 in its emergency department from 2020 to 2023 – enough people to fill half of the Kitchener Auditorium.

The art installation helps to commemorate staff stories and honours the work they did to care for patients during a global health crisis.
“It's emotionally touching to view (the installation) because it's a reminder of what transpired. But it gives us a lot of hope because we've all come through,” Tawana says. “We came to it, and we came through it – together.”
Want to learn more about the COVID-19 Art Installation? Read the artist's statement and watch the video below.

The Meaning Behind the Art

“I want people to see the strength healthcare workers held during the pandemic, putting the well-being of strangers above themselves and coming together as a community in a time of overwhelming fear.”
Shannon Donaldson Quote
Shannon Donaldson
Respiratory Therapist
“Hope and strength can conquer fear. I was quite fearful of COVID as an immunocompromised person, but l tried to stay strong for my patients and coworkers.”
Christine Jowett
Christine Jowett
Critical Care Nurse
"Something beautiful can come from a tragic and challenging circumstance. The installation represents perseverance, hope and cooperation toward a common goal.”
Sean Winter
Sean Winter
Respirology Nurse Practitioner
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St. Mary's General Hospital Foundation

Medical Centre 2
435 The Boardwalk, Suite 300
Waterloo, ON, N2T 0C2


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